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Should You Buy Or Rent Your Textbooks? 

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Textbooks. One small word that can bring so much dread to college students across the country. Students can feel the biggest amount of joy at stumbling across a PDF for their class textbooks or finding their assigned textbooks at a good price. They can feel just as much disappointment, if not more, when they realize their professor has assigned them the newest edition of a textbook and they can’t save money from buying the textbook from other students or websites.

There are plenty of ways that students get around the hefty price of college textbooks. Some students share with their classmates. Others will go through the trouble of relying on the textbooks reserved in the library for whenever they need to catch up on readings. There’s one option that is often at the center of college students’ textbooks decision – renting textbooks versus buying textbooks.

If you are in the middle of searching for next term’s textbooks, consider the following when you are trying to determine whether or not to rent your textbooks or to buy them:

How valuable is the textbook after the term you need it for?

This will vary textbook to textbook. Some textbooks you will be needing for a specific class, but others you may be able to use for other courses in the topic or course series. You can ask around from others you know have taken the course or series in order to figure out how useful the textbook may be down the line.

If you know you will never touch the textbook after you are done using it for the course, you are better off renting the book and not giving your future self the trouble of reselling it or throwing it under your bed to be forgotten until move-out. If you think the textbook is going to be helpful down the road, later on in your future college courses or even career, you might want to consider buying the book so you can have access to it as long as you would like.

Of course, if you initially rent the textbook and later find out you would like to keep it, many textbook websites allow you to purchase the book for an extra fee.

Consider the resale value of the textbook

Sometimes you will get assigned a book that is harder to find, or is seldom used for college coursework. If this is the case, you may want to consider renting the textbook while you need it for your coursework. Just like most of your belongings, each and every textbook will hold varying values and it is definitely something you want to consider when looking to buy or rent college textbooks.

If you are assigned a book that is not a typical college textbook, renting may be a better option because if you do purchase it, you may have more trouble reselling the textbook when you are done with it. If you are assigned an older edition of a textbook, you might want to consider renting the textbook as well. The older edition a textbook is, the less value it will hold down the line. There is a better chance that a new edition is going to be put out, making your edition less likely to be assigned from other professors.

At the same time, if you are assigned a newer edition or a book that is commonly assigned for college courses, you may want to consider buying the book for yourself. These books are more likely to be higher in value and will be easier to resell when you are done using them.

 How much do you usually mark-up textbooks?

Think of your previous experiences with textbooks. Did you leave them nearly untouched – only really opening them up when you stuck on a certain study guide question or wanted to glimpse at course readings? Or did you use them to the best of your ability, marking them up with highlighter and leaving your own notes scrawled in the margins?

If you are not one to mark up textbooks, textbook rentals will be a great match for you. You won’t have to worry about any extra fees for “damage” done if you are only going to glimpse at the textbook now and again. If you are one to mark up a textbook, buying the textbook for your courses may be the better option as you don’t have to worry about holding back on how much you want to use the textbook for studying.

There is no right answer that fits every college student when it comes to deciding whether to buy or rent college textbooks. What works for one of your classmates may not work for you. With these three factors, the decision gets a little easier when you consider the option that suits your own studying needs.